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Murrays out; Florida cleans house

Preparing for the team's possible sale, the struggling Panthers fired their coach and general manager Thursday and traded a veteran center who never lived up to his free-agent contract.

Coach Terry Murray and his brother, vice president and general manager Bryan Murray, were dismissed by team president Bill Torrey after the Panthers won six of their first 36 games.

Terry Murray is the fifth NHL coach fired this season, which is less than half over.

Duane Sutter, a scout for the team the past three seasons, became the fifth coach in its history. Torrey took over as interim GM.

The Panthers also traded center Igor Larionov to Detroit for defenseman Yan Golubovsky, who will report to their Louisville affiliate. Larionov joined the Panthers in July after signing a one-year deal for $1.8-million.

Founding owner Wayne Huizenga has had the struggling franchise on the market for months.

"There are interested parties," Torrey said at a news conference. "This clears the deck for a new owner to come in and make his own personnel decisions."

League gives Gretzky group more time

PHOENIX _ The NHL gave Wayne Gretzky and developer Steve Ellman until Feb. 15 to close their $87-million purchase of the Coyotes.

It remained unclear whether city officials in suburban Scottsdale, Ariz., also will grant Gretzky's group a 45-day extension past the Sunday deadline to buy the team.

If they don't, plans for a $575-million retail, residential and entertainment complex in Scottsdale _ anchored by a 17,300-seat arena for the Coyotes _ could be scrapped.

"I can't imagine that Scottsdale wouldn't do the extension," owner Richard Burke said. "I'm doing everything I can to make this work because it's the right thing to do."

RANGERS-AVALANCHE TRADE: New York acquired defenseman Alexei Gusarov, a member of Colorado's 1996 Stanley Cup championship team, for a fifth-round draft choice.

BLUES-PENGUINS TRADE: St. Louis sent defenseman Marc Bergevin to Pittsburgh for Dan Trebil.

CANUCKS-ISLANDERS TRADE: Vancouver filled its need for an experienced penalty-killing forward with the acquisition of center Mike Stapleton from New York for a ninth-round draft pick.

AVALANCHE: Center Stephane Yelle will be out indefinitely with a herniated disc in his lower back.

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